Letter: Energy comparisons could hurt customers

Re: “Power comparisons pay off,” Oct. 11. The bimonthly Opower reports compare a consumer's energy use with a composite of their neighbor's usage.

I find these mailings irritating and mean-spirited. They employ 'big brother' manipulation, which in effect makes GWP customers feel “less than” when compared with their neighbors.

These comparisons fail to take into account that one consumer's usage cannot be matched with another's depending on their circumstances.

How can you compare a couple working during the day with a mom who stays at home with her children — especially those with babies who require more heat for their newborns when the weather gets cooler? During heat waves and cold snaps the elderly need to use their air conditioners or heaters to regulate their health.

Evenings, I've noticed neighbors over the age of 80 sitting in the dark to save energy. Is it wise to put this kind of pressure on these folks? They could trip and fall without their lights on. During the recession we took on a tenant to increase our income due to job loss. Our tenant is very conscientious, but it does raise our energy usage.

The article also touts the perceived benefits of using GWP's new Internet tools: “Officials are trying to drive people to the digital portals... to set usage alerts.” Again, this can challenge seniors, causing anxiety, as they are forced to quickly come up to speed using computer technology they may not be familiar with.

I cannot shake the feeling that these reports are high-tech poison-pen letters that pit one neighbor against another, hurting the most vulnerable. GWP needs to rethink the program, factor in the demographics and consider the human cost to lowering our energy usage.

Linda Fitzgerald

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